Wide receiver Mike Wallace spent four years in Pittsburgh before following the free-agent money trail to the Dolphins. Wallace knew the questions he would get this week as surely as he knows the reception hell get Sunday in Pittsburgh.
Im on a new team. Im sure theyre not going to like that too much, Wallace chuckled. We all have to move on. Ive moved on. Excited about another challenge in the playoff race. Theyre just another team standing in our way in the playoff hopes. Just go out and try not to get too caught up into that. Itll be kind of tough. I dont try to get too caught up in who our opponent is.
Wallace did allow that this game would bring more emotions to handle that when the Dolphins went to his native New Orleans earlier this year. After all, hed already played there in his career.
If anything, he might feel comfortable, Dolphins wide receiver Brian Hartline said.
Though Wallace also knows Pittsburghs defensive backs better than his fellow Dolphins wide receivers do, his topography tips might wind up more important. Wallace knows the lay of the infamous Heinz Field land.
It gets pretty bad. [The University of Pittsburgh] plays there a lot, Wallace said. Their seasons winding down. The field might be pretty good. Might be pretty bad. People used to always say we had the worst field in the league. I never thought that because I was playing on it every week. The grass comes up a lot, soft grass. Youve got to be ready for it.
Wallace came to the Dolphins with statistics that supported the idea that the Dolphins, in dump off mode since the late 1990s, imported the NFLs premier deep threat. From 2009-2013, nobody exceeded Wallaces 19 touchdowns of 30 yards or longer in 63 regular-season games. That works out to 4.8 per 16-game season. His 17.2 yards per catch ranked fourth in the NFL over that same period.
In 12 games this season, Wallace has only three touchdowns of any length, only two longer than 30 yards, only one on the kind of go long routes that open up defenses for everyone else. As far as yards per catch this season, Wallaces 13.3 barely beats Hartlines 13.0 yards per catch.
Given that Hartlines previous career low was 14.3 in 2010 catching passes from Check Down Chad Henne, that might indicate Wallaces production is also a matter of quarterback Ryan Tannehills shortcomings when throwing long. The past two games, Tannehill hit Wallace five times for 127 yards and a touchdown against Carolina and seven times for 82 yards, including a 28-yard catch-and-run touchdown, against the Jets.
I never lost my swagger. Never gone, Wallace said. Not really, trying to make the most of my opportunities, thats all. Just feeling more comfortable every week in the offense. Its time. Its Time to hit stride. No more warming up, no more none of that. Its time to go. Its the perfect time for it. Get the kinks out of the way early. Its December. Its time to make a playoff run. Youve got to make plays now. We dont have time to wait.